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Know the NFC North: Week 15

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A roundup of how the NFC North performed in Week 15 of the season.

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Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

NFC North standings

Detroit Lions: 10-4

Green Bay Packers: 10-4

Minnesota Vikings: 6-8

Chicago Bears: 5-9

Green Bay Packers

Last week: 21-13 loss at the Buffalo Bills

Now you cannot say that Jim Schwartz never did anything for you. I absolutely refuse to give him any credit for the Bills' upset of the Packers, but I will admit that he was on the sideline at the same time the game took place.

Overall, this game was a pretty ugly defensive battle. The Bills defense played well, but the Packers offense made a lot of unforced errors. For their part, the Bills offense struggled to move the ball and settled for four field goals and no touchdowns. Their only other scores of the day came via a punt return and a safety.

The game was within a single score the entire time, and neither team could really pull away. The fatal series for the Packers began at the end of the third quarter, as they were down six after Dan Carpenter connected on his third field goal of the day. The Pack took over on their own 20-yard line, but on their second play, an Aaron Rodgers pass was deflected up and into the arms of the fantastically named safety Bacarri Rambo. Despite starting at the Packers 29-yard line, the Bills lost 15 yards and put themselves out of field goal range. Fortunately for them, on the Packers' next possession, Rodgers overthrew his receiver for another Rambo interception to halt Green Bay's best drive of the day.

The Packers began their final drive of the day on their own 10-yard line with just under two minutes left in the game and down six points. On the first play of the drive, defensive end Mario Williams beat backup tackle JC Tretter and forced a Rodgers fumble in the end zone. Thanks to some strange NFL rule I had never heard of, the ball was then dead in the end zone when Eddie Lacy tried to advance it, resulting in a safety and a Bills win.

Highlights

Tramon Williams - Williams caught as many Kyle Orton passes as the receivers he was defending (one).

Bryan Bulaga - This is more of a "miss me when I'm gone" selection. After Bulaga left the game with an injury, he was replaced by backup JC Tretter. While Bulaga kept Mario Williams at bay, Tretter was no match and surrendered the fatal strip-sack at the end of the game.

Lowlights

Aaron Rodgers - This game was objectively the worst of Rodgers' career. He went 17-for-42 for a measly 185 yards with two interceptions and a quarterback rating of 34.3. That is the worst quarterback rating and completion percentage of his career. He certainly didn't have a lot of help, as his receivers dropped eight passes, including a would-be 94-yard touchdown bomb to Jordy Nelson and one on his first interception. I like this Rodgers much better than the other Rodgers, but I'm not sure we will see him again for a while.

Play-calling - Eddie Lacy continues to impress this season, and he carried the Packers offense while the passing attack was floundering. Well, he would have carried the offense if Mike McCarthy would have let him. On a day when Rodgers and his receivers were clearly out of sync, Lacy received only 15 rushes despite averaging 6.5 yards per carry and scoring the Packers' only touchdown. I know Rodgers deserves the benefit of the doubt, but at some point you have to go with what is working. The Bills have the best passing defense in the league, according to Football Outsiders, so I'm not sure a 42-23 passing-to-rushing ratio is a solid game plan, especially when the game was within one score the entire time.

Next week: At the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-12)

Minnesota Vikings

Last week: 16-14 loss at the Detroit Lions

You can get your Lions-Vikings fix herehere and here.

Next week: At the Miami Dolphins (7-7)

Chicago Bears

Last week: 31-15 home loss to the New Orleans Saints

Poor Bears. In a now familiar pattern, this game was actually not as close as it looks in the final score thanks to a couple garbage touchdowns by the Bears. Jay Cutler set the tone early with an interception on the third play of the game. Initially, the Saints were unable to capitalize on the Bears' ineptitude, and their first two drives ended in a fumble and a missed field goal. However, after a scoreless first quarter, the Saints scored two touchdowns in the second quarter to enter the half up 14-0. After another touchdown and a field goal in the third quarter, the Saints were effectively out of reach by the fourth quarter, up 24-0.

To summarize, the Bears seem to be on their last leg. Their locker room continues to remain in turmoil after offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer admitted that he leaked critical comments about Cutler to the media and then issued a tearful apology in front of the team. Against the Saints, Cutler proceeded to prove Kromer's comments to be true by turning the ball over three times and taking seven sacks. After the game, reports began to surface that coach Marc Trestman and general manager Phil Emery's time in Chicago is drawing to a close.

Fun times.

Highlights

Marquess Wilson - The second-year receiver lived up to his hype in his first game starting in place of the injured Brandon Marshall. Sure, he scored in garbage time, but he was more efficient than any other Bears receiver by bringing down 3 of 5 targets. Silver lining?

Lowlights

Jay Cutler - Three picks. Next.

Offensive line - As stated, the Saints brought Cutler down seven times on the night. While Cutler does not deserve the benefit of the doubt when he throws three picks, it at least provides some context to know he was running for his life.

Kyle Fuller - Is it possible that Calvin Johnson ruined Kyle Fuller? Fuller looked awesome earlier in the year, but he is crashing and burning right now. He gave up over 100 yards on the night and was awarded a -4.8 grade by Pro Football Focus. Hopefully the trend continues when he faces Megatron again in Week 16.

Next week: At home against the Detroit Lions (10-4)